President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize should be seen as an acknowledgment of the promise that his presidency holds for leading the world into a new era of cooperation. Critics who argue that he hasn’t earned it miss the point. The Nobel committee clearly wanted to boost support for Obama’s world view and, judging from the overwhelmingly positive international reaction, they succeeded at least for the moment.
But after the champagne bubbles dissipate Obama will still be left with the tough job of turning cheers from the international bleachers into tangible progress on some of the world’s toughest problems – the war on Al Qaeda, Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, Middle East peace, climate change, and poverty.
Winning over world opinion, which the Nobel prize award signifies, can help. It frees up governments to respond positively to Obama’s call for them to assume their responsibilities. And that in turn puts pressure on rogue leaders to mend their ways and join the developing international consensus.
But if it turns out that George Will is right and Obama ends up being “adored but ignored” then the Nobel committee will have done him no favors.
Brookings Senior Fellow and former U.S. State Department Special Envoy on Climate Todd Stern spoke at the US Climate Action Center, at the COP 24 UN climate negotiations, on the future of the Paris Agreement in Katowice, Poland on December 10, 2018.
[On the U.S. negotiating team at the COP 24 climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland] They work seriously, effectively and knowledgeably. There is only this technical negotiating team, not a political one.